News: Betting on Green Building

Betting on Green:
Is it Possible to Build the Greenest Home in Canada and Still Make a Profit?
One Entrepreneur is About to Find Out -
By Neeraj Jain

Canada's Greenest Home goes on sale later this month.

Peterborough, Ontario May 14, 2013

Neeraj Jain believes that we could be living in homes that are much more sustainable than what is currently on the market. The former CEO of an electronics company realized that the moves the industry was making toward greener homes were baby steps, so he commissioned the construction of Canada’s Greenest Home.

This home is not another government funded demonstration project. It received no outside funding, and will be going head-to-head with regular homes on the open market in Peterborough, Ontario later this month. Built on an infill lot in the desirable East City area of the small city, the home is not just loaded with green features, but is a complete re-thinking about how a home can be built and operate. Based on the Living Building Challenge standards, the home is designed to generate all the power it requires, collect and filter its own water and treat all its own waste. It uses locally sourced and natural materials, and not a single chemical-laden product made its way through the door of the house. From the home, the whole city is within walk-able or bike-able distances, including key employers like the Ministry of Natural Resources, Quaker Oats and Trent University.

That the home is a remarkable technical achievement is beyond doubt. But will anybody want to buy it? Jain is betting that there are buyers who will be intrigued by the idea of living in a completely healthy, self-sustaining way, with no utility bills and a monthly income from the rooftop solar panels.

“I think that the interest and enthusiasm for sustainable building among the buying public is higher than most developers and builders seem to think. Awareness is growing that energy costs are rising, and a home that consumes a fraction of the energy of a typical new home is a great investment,” says Jain. “Plus, people are becoming much more conscious of their health, and a home with clean, filtered air and no toxins at all is going to be very desirable.”

The home was designed and built by the Endeavour Centre, a not-for-profit sustainable building school in Peterborough. “The team at Endeavour really impressed me with their ability to blend sustainable building technology with really modern, functional design,” Jain insists. “I knew that the features of this house had to blend into a design that appealed to mainstream buyers. The idea is to show that we can raise the bar on the technology without losing any aesthetic appeal.”

Advanced energy modeling using Passive House software shows that this house will use about 80 per cent less energy than an identical house built to meet the building code. “It’s amazing to me that it’s possible to reduce a home’s energy footprint by that much,” he marvels. “It’s almost revolutionary, and it’s not that hard to do!”

Jain’s interest in sustainable building has also led him to invest in NatureBuilt Wall Systems, an Ontario-based startup that manufactures prefabricated straw bale wall panels called BioSIPs. The Canada’s Greenest Home project was an excellent way to showcase these walls, that are no more expensive than conventional framing but are much better insulated and made with completely natural and non-toxic materials. “The walls are a perfect example of how the technology to radically improve home performance while reducing environmental impacts is readily available and waiting to be used,” Jain explains.

He has succeeded in having built Canada’s Greenest Home. Now he will see if it turns out to be the wise investment decision he believes it could be. The home will have its debut with an open house on May 26, coinciding with the listing of its availability for sale.